The following is taken from "Two Hundredth Anniversary of the Old Dutch Church at Sleepy Hollow, 1697-1897," printed by The De Vinne Press for the Consistory of the First Reformed Church of Tarrytown, A. D., 1898.
In Presenting to the public this book which contains the papers which were delivered at
the recent Bicentennial of The Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow, it is though desirable
to give also some account of the building itself, of the historical articles that are connected
with it, and of the property of which it is a part. Irving's reference to it is familiar to all,
yet is worth repeating once more.
"It stands on a knoll surrounded by locust-trees and lofty elms, from among which its
decent, white-washed walls shine modestly forth, like Christian purity beaming through the
shades of retirement. A gentle slope descends from it to a silver sheet of water, bordered
by high trees, between which peeps may be caught of the blue hills of the Hudson. To
look upon its grass-grown yard, where the sunbeams seem to sleep so quietly, one would
think that there at least the dead might rest in peace."
We could wish that time had left those trees to which Irving refers, but scarcely one
remains to-day. The building, however, is much as it was when his pen described it.
It is a small structure, but was doubtless large enough for the congregation which
worshiped in it at the beginning. Its walls are more than two feet thick, and were built of
the stone of the vicinity, with the exception of certain flat, yellow bricks, which were
brought from Holland, and were built around the windows and door. The building is
gambrel-roofed and is octagonal in the rear. A small tower surmounts it, in which hangs
the little bell, which is highly embossed, and was cast to order in Holland in 1685. This
bears upon its sides the legend, "Si Deus Pro Nobis Quis Contra Nos?" "If God be for us
who can be against us?" The road now runs in front of the church which faces to the
west, but originally it ran in the rear; as is well known, Hollanders loved to put the gable
of a building toward the street. There are few older edifices of any kind in the country,
and probably none to which more interest attaches. It gains an added charm because the
pen of Irving has cast a halo of romance about it. Washington's diary too shows that he
halted within its shadow.
Originally the door was not where we find it, at the front, or western end, of the church,
but was in the southwestern corner where a window now is, and was approached by a
path which left the road some distance to the south, and wound its way through the graves
to the entrance. In addition to the gallery which now occupies the western end of the
church there was a small, shallow gallery, on the north side, and both were reached by
stairs which started from somewhere near the center of the church. There are evidences
remaining that the walls within were not plastered originally, but were whitewashed
directly on the rough stone. At either side of the pulpit, before the Revolutionary War,
were what were called "thrones," elevated places with canopies, in the one of which sat
the Lord of the Manor, and in the other his wife. These were torn down after the war, and
the places were used as seats for the Elders and Deacons. The pulpit at the beginning was
a small octagonal structure, and over it hung a sounding board. In 1837, changes
supposed to better the condition of things were made, and, among them, this pulpit was
removed and an uglier and more modern one was substituted in its place.
As the time for the celebration of the Two Hundredth Anniversary approached, the
consistory determined to restore the church to a degree. A committee was appointed, and
the changes were undertaken and completed under the supervision of Mr. William H.
Mersereau as architect. A ceiling of quartered oak corresponding to the one which was
originally in the church, traces of which remained behind the later plaster ceiling, was put
in place; the beams which once crossed from wall to wall, and which had been removed,
were restored; and a pulpit, which was nearly as possible a counterpart of the first one,
was set up. This was copied after the pulpit which is to be seen in the audience room of
the First Reformed Church of Albany. Those who had seen the original pulpit in the Old
Sleepy Hollow Church and this in Albany affirmed that they were facsimiles of each other.
We may add that besides these and other changes of a minor character, the building was
put in thorough repair. It is believed it is now more like what it was at the start than at
any time since the changes of 1837.
As indicated above, there is attached to the church an ancient burying-ground. It has
probably been employed for this since the middle of the seventeenth century. Here are
buried some of the aborigines; here many of "the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep";
here the ministers who preached, and the congregations who sat before them, shepherd
and flock alike folded together; here rest the black slave, and the soldier of the
Revolutionary War, as well as the soldier of the late Civil War. Many a quaint inscription
and device may be seen on the leaning and moldering headstones, and here are many
forgotten graves. Beneath the floor of the church itself rest the ashes of its builder, and of
many of his family, who were buried here down to the time of the Revolutionary War,
when the property passed out of their hands. It may be worth while to state that in the
early part of the year 1896 the crypt beneath the floor was opened, and a careful
examination of the condition and contents of the vault was made for the purpose of
ascertaining, if possible, the date of the building of the church or gaining some other
historical data. Beyond good and satisfactory evidence that the mortal remains of Vredryk
Flypse, the first Lord of the Manor, of his son Adolphus and his grandson Frederic, and
some of the successors, were deposited here, nothing of importance was discovered. The
crypt contained the remnants of sixteen or more coffins, most of them broken or crumbled
and many inextricably mixed, having fallen one within the other. The earliest date found
was 1702-03. The vault was found to be dry and odorless. It was resealed after
investigation, and it is believed there is nothing here to repay the labor of future research.
The First Reformed Church of Tarrytown is the same organization with that which
originally worshipped in the old structure, but now occupying another building. In time
the old church was found to be too small for the growing congregation, and too much out
of the center of the village, so the present structure was built in the northern part of the
town in the year 1854, the Rev. Abel T. Stewart being then the pastor of the church. The
first manse was built in 1852. This was torn down in the year 1893, and another and much
more commodious and comfortable edifice was reared in its stead, which now goes under
the name of "The Manse of Sleepy Hollow."
We give below a complete list of the property that is owned by the First Reformed
(1) REAL ESTATE.
(a) Old Dutch Church and Burying Ground.--The church building is fully described above.
The burying ground contains two acres of land and adjoins the church on the south, east,
(b) Village Church and Manse.--The church is of red brick, and is situated on the east side
of Broadway, a short distance north of the Andre monument, and was completed in 1854.
The church contains a handsome organ, purchased in 1894 at a cost of $33oo, and
replacing a smaller one. The Manse of Sleepy Hollow was erected, as already stated, in
1893, upon the site of the former Manse, and cost about $7500. The church grounds
extend from Broadway back to the old Croton Aqueduct, and contain one and one-half
(2) SILVER COMMUNION VESSELS AND OTHER PROPERTY.
(a) Two Chalices, or Beakers, richly engraved, and a Silver Baptismal Bowl. The one
chalice bears the name of Catherina Van Cortlant, and the other, as also the baptismal
bowl, the name of Fredryck Flypse, as donors.
(b) The Communion Table of heavy black oak, made in Holland, and inlaid with ebony.
This also was presented to the church by Fredryck Flypse and his wife.
(3) THE CHURCH RECORDS.
(a) The Old Dutch Records are made up of several books, or parts, contained in one
volume. The actual writing of these records was begun in 1715, but they date back to
1697, the year of the calling of the first minister. They are written in Dutch, with the
exception of a few entries made toward the close of the last or beginning of this century.
An excellent translation of these records was made by Mr. Richard Brinkerhoof of New
York in 1876. A second book, in English, being in part a continuation of the older book,
is also preserved; this brings the record down to the year 1817. From this date until 1837
there seems to be a break in the Records, and if any were kept during this period they have
not been seen for more than fifty years. From 1837 to the present date the Records are
full in all matters relating to the officers and members, and the business of the church.
(4) DEEDS TO CHURCH PROPERTY.
Besides the deeds to the property upon which the Village Church and the Manse stand, the
Church has in its possession the parchment Deed or Indenture granted by the
Commissioners of Forfeiture of this State, in 1787, under which the Old Church property
is held. Elsewhere in this volume a copy of this deed may be found.
We give in succeeding pages a complete program of the Bicentennial exercises which were
held on Sunday and Monday, October 10 and 11, 1897. Following that will be found the
papers which were delivered on that occasion, with the pictures of as many of the pastors
who have officiated in the Old Church as could be obtained, and representations of the
Old Church and of articles of historical interest belonging to it. It may be added that
favorable weather attended the celebration, and that a vast amount of interest was
manifested in all the exercises, the Old Church, on the Sunday afternoon, being able to
hold but a small part of the crowds which thronged its doors. Altogether, the exercises
were worthy the occasion, and will long be remembered by all who were permitted to have
any share in them. The history of the church in full will be found in the address of the
Rev. Dr. Cole in another part of this volume. It is believed that the recent repairs on the
old building have put it in condition to outlast the storms of many years. Long may it
stand as a silent but eloquent witness for the truths of the gospel which for generations
have been proclaimed within its walls. Long may it cast its shadow down on the graves
which are clustered about its base. May the little bell continue to ring from its tower until
it shall herald n a brighter day for all mankind, until it shall
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
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